On the Brink of Sequester, Faust Meets with Lawmakers

During a trip to Washington this week, University President Drew G. Faust met with prominent lawmakers, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts, and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, to argue against cuts to federal research funding that will take effect if Congress does not pass a budget deal sometime on Friday.

The cuts, collectively known as sequestration, are designed to slash 8.2 percent of most non-defense discretionary programs and will impact Harvard’s sponsored research funding streams from Washington, which totaled over $650 million in fiscal year 2012.

Faust, who called scientific research “a foundation of our success as a nation for the past 60 years,” said her trip had three primary purposes. The first was to greet new members of Congress, particularly Harvard alumni. The second was to explain the negative consequences of cuts to research funding, which she said propels both international competitiveness and economic prosperity. Finally, Faust said she sought to understand different viewpoints on sequestration and hone her own arguments against austerity measures by meeting with members from both parties as well as members of the executive branch.

In addition to McConnell, Kennedy, and Kaine, Faust met with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Representative David E. Price of North Carolina, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, and Secretary of the Navy Ray E. Mabus. She also attended a lunch with several other representatives with varying levels of seniority at the Capitol.

“Everybody has been engaged in the conversation,” Faust said, adding that she received “a lot of advice” on how to argue for robust support of scientific research as persuasively as possible.

Faust said that Harvard alumni can be especially helpful for the University’s outreach in Washington because they understand Harvard’s mission and the importance of research.

Members of the “Harvard family,” she said, “can be very effective spokespeople.”

Faust has previously traveled to Washington to lobby on behalf of Harvard and its researchers.

During debates over the allocation of stimulus funds in 2008 and 2009, she pushed for funding for research as a source of economic growth.

Christine M. Heenan, Harvard’s vice president for public affairs and communications, said before Faust’s visit that whether or not sequestration occurs, Faust’s visit to the Capitol can help to encourage focus on research funding in the long term.

“Policy dialogue is ongoing in Washington, even as deadlines loom,” Heenan said.

—Staff writer Nikita Kansra can be reached at nikitakansra@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @NikitaKansra.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.

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